Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen play an unlikely couple (she’s the secretary of state, he’s Seth Rogen) in “Long Shot.” (Lion’s Gate Entertainment)

Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen play an unlikely couple (she’s the secretary of state, he’s Seth Rogen) in “Long Shot.” (Lion’s Gate Entertainment)

‘Long Shot’ works as rom-com, less so as political satire

Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen have chemistry, but the lame satire and gross-out gags are clumsy.

Long Shot” works charmingly as a romance; passably as an R-rated slapstick comedy; and clumsily as political satire.

Let’s take those one at a time.

As a rom-com, it’s swell. Schlubby Seth Rogen and glamorous Charlize Theron lean into their differences and generate very appealing chemistry together.

He plays a crusading Brooklyn journalist, Fred Flarsky, a beer-and-Doritos guy whose tragic taste in gaudy windbreakers is his defining fashion statement.

She plays Charlotte Field, merely the U.S. Secretary of State, who cuts an elegant figure as she navigates the compromises necessary for someone planning a future presidential bid.

They knew each other in childhood — an embarrassing incident recounted in detail — so it’s not that big a stretch when Charlotte hires Fred to tag along on a world tour as a speechwriter. The script, by Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah, takes it time to allow mutual attraction to build, and Theron and Rogen play it with just the right amount of uncertainty and fun.

The necessity of maintaining a certain level of R-rated gross-out humor frequently intrudes on what would otherwise be material suited for a 1950s Doris Day comedy. An extended bit where Charlotte solves a diplomatic crisis while high on club drugs is well-baked, however.

As for the political satire, here’s the problem: It’s all too tame, compared to 2019 reality. No joke can possibly be outrageous enough to match the headlines — so when Fred criticizes one media mogul for believing that “gay marriage causes hurricanes,” it doesn’t get a laugh, because there are a couple dozen senators and evangelical leaders who believe exactly that.

There are some good moments in the Oval Office, where the nitwit president (Bob Odenkirk) plots a future career as a movie star, and an unrecognizable Andy Serkis plays a Rupert Murdoch-like corporate vampire.

The cast includes June Diane Raphael (from “Grace and Frankie”) and Ravi Patel as political advisers, and O’Shea Jackson Jr. as Fred’s best pal. All provide useful support.

“Long Shot” is overlong, and the humor uneven. But it succeeds because it makes you want to believe in Theron and Rogen as a couple — and maybe that the heroine of “Mad Max: Fury Road” could be our next president.

“Long Shot” (2½ stars)

Secretary of State Charlize Theron and crusading journalist Seth Rogen strike up an unlikely romance, which turns out to be an appealing match because of the actors’ chemistry. The movie’s overlong and its humor goes clumsily from toothless political satire to R-rated gross-out gags, but the rom-com stuff undeniably works.

Rating: R, for language, subject matter

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